In October 2022, data revealed that 222 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children were kidnapped from hotels run by the Home Office, leading to claims that the government department is failing to deliver sufficient child protection.
An Observer investigation recently revealed asylum-seeking children have been victims of kidnapping by gangs from a hotel in Brighton reportedly run by the Home Office, in addition to an estimated 136 children reported missing from 600 unaccompanied children in a Sussex hotel, with more than half remaining unaccounted for.
Further reports also stated that instances of trafficking from a similar hotel in Kent estimated that at least 10% of its children disappeared each week. No new guidance for the police has been given to detect the missing children, as sources provide that the guidance remains in ‘development’ despite the Home Office referring queries of criminal targeting of children to the police.
“Children are literally being picked up from outside the building, disappearing and not being found. They’re being taken from the street by traffickers,” a recent source stated. Mark Townsend reports that Home Office sources deny allegations of kidnapping and the targeting of asylum-seeking children from hotels run under their responsibility, stating that youngsters were ‘free’ to leave their accommodation.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper further described the news as ‘truly appalling and scandalous’ and that the Home Office has badly failed to protect child safety and control dangerous gangs. She added that home secretary Suella Braverman has “failed to act on the repeated warnings she has been given about totally inadequate safeguards for children in their care.”
As a result, The Home Office stated that robust safeguarding procedures have been considered to ensure children are safe and supported, seeking urgent placements within Local Authorities. The National Police Chief’s Council lead for missing persons, Catherine Hankinson, reassures that regular multi-agency meetings by the police review the response to every missing migrant child who do not get located.
Despite this, Carolyne Willow, the director of Article 39 which campaigns for the rights of children in state institutions stated that the volume of missing children portrays a ‘catastrophic child protection failure’ which requires ‘dramatic intervention’.